§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ [The EARL of DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 agreed to.1165
§ Clause 2:
§ Conditions of admittance to final examination.
§ 2.—(1) A person articled to a solicitor after the passing of this Act shall not be admitted to the final examination, unless he satisfies the Law Society that he has during a period of not less than one year complied with the requirements of the Society as to attendance at a course of legal education at a law school provided or approved by the Society:
§ Provided that—
- (a) the Society may in their discretion exempt any person wholly or partially from the provisions of this section if satisfied t hat the attendance at any such course of education as aforesaid was for geographical or other reasons impracticable, or that such pen on during his service as a clerk to a solicitor had opportunities for acquiring and had acquired a satisfactory knowledge of the principles and practice of the law; and
- (b) any person may appeal to the Master of the Rolls in accordance with rules made by the Master of the Rolls against the refusal of the Society to approve any law school for the purposes of this section, or to exempt any person from the provisions of this section, and the decision of the Master of the Rolls shall be final and binding on the Society.
§ (2) The Society shall supply a list of law schools provided or approved by them for time being to—
- (a) any person applying for the same; and
- (b) any person articled to a solicitor as soon as may be after his articles are registered.
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
My Lords, I have not put down an Amendment to this clause, because I thought, if I stated my feelings about it, that might lead to the matter being reconsidered between now and Report. I have no anxiety whatever to assume a hostile attitude towards the passage of the measure, but I think that Clause 2 is one that places the most needless and harsh exactions upon solicitors' clerks, and I would ask the noble and learned Viscount who has charge of this measure to see if some further mitigation cannot be given to these provisions before the Bill becomes law.
The clause provides that a person articled to a solicitor after the passing of this Bill shall not be admitted to his final examination, unless he satisfies the Law Society that he has during a period of not less than one year complied with the requirements of the Society as to attendance at a course of legal education at a law school provided or approved by the Society. Then there are certain powers to make exemptions. 1166 In other words, in addition to imposing upon the solicitor's clerk the necessary duty of passing an examination, they want also to say: "You must prepare for that examination in a particular way." I regard that as most unfair. There must be many of us in this House who have never been through a system of legal education in our lives, although it may be suggested that we might have been the better if we had been.
My feeling about it is that the authorities have it in their power to place before you an examination which they may make as difficult as they phase, and, if you go through and pass the examination, they have no right whatever to say: "Now, we insist on your having attended for twelve months at a course of legal education." Really, is seems to me useless, because when you compel the student to attend at a course of legal education you cannot compel him to get any good whatever out of it. My experience—and verily believe your Lordships will agree with me—is that compulsory attendance at lectures and compulsory systems of education have done the least possible good in improving the mind of the person who is compulsorily called upon to attend. I hope that the noble and learned Viscount will sea if he cannot do something for solicitors' clerks who are, so far as I can see, under this Bill going to be subjected to an imposition which no one has attempted to put upon the Bar, and to which I do not think for one moment the Bar would assent.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, my noble and learned friend has given a picture of the solicitor's clerk as the toad under the harrow which, I am bound to say, elicits a great deal of sympathy from me, because I attained to such small legal knowledge as ever came my way without the assistance of a law school, and, in the main, I am bound to add, of lectures, but my noble and learned friend will not have failed to notice that there is a proviso that the Society may be satisfied that such person during his service as a clerk had opportunities for acquiring and had acquired a satisfactory knowledge of the principles and practice of the law.
My noble and learned friend may say that they may be difficult to satisfy, not that you have had opportunities (on which they would probably be easily satisfied), but that you have, in fact, 1167 acquired a satisfactory knowledge of the principles and practice of the law. I confess I have a great deal of sympathy with the broad view that it is in your power to inflict, if you are armed with authority, so terrific a test by examination that it is adding a refinement of cruelty to prescribe the various disagreeable stages by which the examinee shall acquire the knowledge, which, in the end, you have the power of testing and pronouncing, if you choose to do so, to be insufficient. I am not sufficiently aware of the reasons which prompted the Law Society, who are a very experienced body charged with responsibilities in this matter, to think that this provision would be a useful one, but my noble and learned friends purpose of assuming that the matter shall be considered before Report will be fully attained. I will promise him that.
§ Clauses 2 to 10 agreed to.
§ Schedule agreed to.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
In moving that this Report be now received, I am not forgetful of the assurance I gave a moment ago to my noble and learned friend, and the Bill will not be put down for Third Reading for a week. In the meantime, the suggestion of my noble and learned friend shall receive consideration.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to: Bill reported without amendment.